The resolvedness conditions for questions are not semantically invariant, but rather heavily influenced by the goals and intentions of the discourse participants. One of the chief innovations of recent question- and preference-driven models of pragmatics is to characterize how these high-level contextual features influence language production and comprehension. The goal of this paper is to develop and motivate general techniques for quantitatively and qualitatively assessing such models. The basis for my exploration is the Cards corpus of task-oriented dialogues, a highly structured resource that allows us not only to rigorously interpret the discourse participants' utterances but also to track their evolving goals and subgoals. The paper's central experiments provide evidence that the semantic variability of answers to Where are you? is governed by the particular demands of the goal that the question engages.
Proceedings of the 30th West Coast Conference on Formal Linguistics
edited by Nathan Arnett and Ryan Bennett
Table of contents